Brian Sandford: Elders aren’t the only people we can learn from

Kids these days!

They have no concept of finances or respect. They don’t know how to think critically. We adults have absolutely nothing to learn from them. Am I right?

Absolutely not.

I had dinner Wednesday with a reader who looked about 50 years old. It turns out he is 70 and has moved around the country, constantly taking in new experiences. When I spoke recently at a Carson City Men’s Club meeting, I mentioned I’d been in journalism for 20 years. An audience member asked, “Did you start your career in third grade?” I’ve received many similar quasi-compliments since moving to Carson City.

For many of us, looking youthful and thinking youthfully go hand in hand. I don’t have children — granted, that’s another key to looking youthful — but I’ve had many enlightening conversations with bright, engaging young people who, it turns out, had tons to teach me. Not about finances, politics or relationships, as those are the things we adults spend far too much time worrying about. Children teach us lessons about interacting with the world.

They remind us the importance of staying active; they also remind us of the need to constantly be asking “Why?” As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, intellectual curiosity is the most important quality a journalist can possess. It’s among the most important qualities any adult can possess. In most children, it’s innate.

I far prefer a conversation with an intelligent child to one with a closed-minded adult. The child reminds me not to always accept conventional wisdom, and to always be wondering. When he or she asks me “Why,” I try not to respond with a routine answer. Instead, I ask myself, “Indeed, why?”

Ten years ago, my childhood best friend and I spent a day at an amusement park in our native Ohio that we’d visited often in our younger years. Neither of us lived in the state anymore, so it was an exciting opportunity to relive memories of our youth. My friend began numerous sentences with “Kids these days …” as he bemoaned their love of video games, cellphones and slang he finds silly.

I’ve long believed that the first day you begin a complaint with “Kids these days ...” is the last official day of your youth. Once you’ve rejected the ideas of a group of people of any age — seniors, fortysomethings or teens — you’ve retreated to a singular method of thinking that you’ll continue to embrace for the rest of your life. It might feel rewarding, but it’s not enriching. Some people cross that threshold in their 50s or 60s; others, such as my friend, do so in their 20s. And some never do.

Young people have much to tell us, and teach us. It’s up to us to listen.

Editor Brian Sandford can be reached at


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